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The First ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Critic Reactions In, And They’re (Mostly) Out Of This World: ‘Never Doubt’ James Cameron

Few sequels have been as belated as Avatar: The Way of Water. James Cameron’s first trip to Pandora hit theaters 13 years ago, and even though it remains the highest grossing movie ever (not adjusted for inflation), there was worry that audiences would have lost interest in the franchise or that Cameron had lost his mojo. Well, it’s already tracking for a huge opening weekend. And now the first critic reactions are in, and they’re (mostly) glowing.

First up is IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, who wasn’t that surprised to be blown away by the first of probably many Avatar sequels. He tweeted, “imagine being dumb enough to bet against James Cameron. or teen alien Sigourney Weaver. or giant whales subtitled in papyrus.” He added tha tit was “light years better than the first & easily one of the best theatrical experiences in ages.” He even suggested it would save movie theaters: “streaming found dead in a ditch.”

“Yeah never bet against James Cameron,” tweeted Uproxx’s own Mike Ryan. “Trying to spare hyperbole, but I’ve never seen anything like this from a technical, visual standpoint. It’s overwhelming. Maybe too overwhelming. Sometimes I’d miss plot points because I’m staring at a Pandora fish.”

The Atlantic’s David Sims declared that Avatar 2 “absolutely owns bones. I was slapping my seat, hooting, screaming for the Na’vi to take out every last one of those dang sky people.”

“James Cameron once again shows filmmakers how it’s done. I’ve said it a thousand times. Never doubt him,” wrote Josh Horowitz of the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is how you do epic blockbuster-ing. Emotional, visceral, and as big as movies get.”

“As an Avatar stan, I had high hopes for #AvatarTheWayofWater and for me it totall, y delivers,” wrote Kara Warner, of People, who added that “it’s a little long, but worth it for the gorgeous visuals, wonderful new characters.”

Drew Taylor of The Wrap bragged that he’d seen it twice already and that he was “overwhelmed by both its technical mastery and unexpectedly intimate emotional scope. Yes the world is expanded and sequels teased but the characters are most important. Cameron is in top form, especially in final act. Good to have him back.”

One of Cameron’s fellow filmmakers even tweeted his reaction. “A staggering achievement,” wrote Guillermo del Toro, who also has his own movie — the animated, outside-the-box take on Pinocchio — out this month. He said Way of Water is “chokefull of majestic Vistas and emotions at an epic, epic scale. A master at thepeak [sic] of his powers…”

So far the critical reactions have been glowing, but there are some more measured takes. Critic Scott Mantz praised the “most incredible VFX I have ever seen,” but admitted that the “ story itself is weaker than the first and feels drawn out at 3 hours & 10 minutes.” Still, he found it “always great to look at & the last hour is amazing.”

Christine Newland of the British newspaper i had a more mixed reaction, calling it a “film to be admired more than loved,” saying it had “some remarkable spectacle, some throwback to Titanic set pieces, some really lovely visual flourishes.” Alas, she says it’s “also interminably, ploddingly overlong, and more impressive than truly absorbing.”

Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters on December 16.